Dear mainstream media: Stop misgendering us

by Hayden Smith

The very first article I read when Chelsea Manning was finally freed from her unusually long prison sentence used her birthname.

The most comprehensive article I’ve read about the untimely death of Ava Le’Ray Barrin, the youngest transgender person to be murdered in the U.S. this year, misgendered her throughout.

The man who interviewed Martine Rothblatt, trans woman, author, philanthropist and transhumanist, for a life-changing TED talk couldn’t get through the entire thing without dropping at least one “he.”

It feels as if no matter where you turn, no media outlet understands how to treat transgender people with fairness and dignity.

So many cisgender people pride themselves on being good allies by using our correct names and pronouns, but it should not be an extraordinary feat; it’s supposed to be the baseline for how you treat transgender people with respect.

The Associated Press directs all journalists to respect our current identities, and yet, so many can hardly resist telling their reader base how we were “formerly” someone else.

Unless the story is about a public figure recently coming out as transgender, there is no reason for clarifying who we “used” to be. There is no reason to use incorrect pronouns when referring to our “past selves.”

So many people seem captivated by the spectacle of change, the novelty of transition or the idea that all transgender people metamorphose into an entirely new human being, as if starting from scratch.

The reality of our lives is much less fantastical. We simply exist. There are no trumpets, no fanfare, not a single angel descending from the heavens to help us step into our new identities.

All that happens is we come to terms with the fact that we were assigned the wrong gender at birth and adjust accordingly, whether that means medically, socially or both. We are the same people. We’re just a little more self-aware now.

The most basic thing in the world is to ask people what they’d like to be called. This is literally how we introduce ourselves. Asking for pronouns if we need to hardly even qualifies as an extra step and transgender people are more than happy to help you with them.

Despite the inherent nature of identification, transgender people are not even allowed this fundamental decency in death, much less in life.

Transgender people are viewed as a complication to the narrative by so many writers. They see us as having so many extra names and identities for them to publicly describe for voyeuristic readers in meticulous detail every time we are mentioned.

In reality, they are the ones complicating our narrative. It’s a very simple one: we are who we say we are. That’s all you need to know.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – August 14, 2017 @ 8 a.m. CDT.